Updated on 12/10/2013 12:27PM

Charles Town: Oaks gets $100,000 purse increase; Researcher slashed by $300,000


A purse increase of $100,000 for the Charles Town Oaks, the second graded event in Charles Town history, and a $300,000 purse decrease for the Researcher Stakes are among the biggest changes to Charles Town’s stakes schedule for 2014. The West Virginia track released its stakes schedule Monday, with 25 races worth a total of $3.55 million.

Charles Town also announced Monday that it had received approval from the West Virginia Racing Commission for its 2014 schedule, which includes 220 live racing dates beginning Jan. 2. The commission did not approve a simulcast agreement as negotiations continue between the track and the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on a new contract. The current agreement expires Dec. 31.

Randy Funkhouser, president of the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told the commission that horsemen had agreed to extend the existing contract through January and the exportation of the simulcast signal through March. He would not go into details about the negotations but said he expected talks to continue on a weekly basis until a deal is reached.

“We’re trying to move forward and get this done, and by extending the current contracts, we anticipate a smooth continuation of racing,” Funkhouser said.

The Charles Town Oaks, which was granted Grade 3 status for the first time by the American Graded Stakes Committee on Friday, will be worth $500,000 when it is run Sept. 20. The purse increase ties the Oaks with the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga as the richest sprint for 3-year-old fillies in the country.

“We felt moving the purse to $500,000 should give us a true marquee race that we can build a better event around,” Erich Zimny, Charles Town’s vice president of racing, said in a statement. “As a $500,000 graded race in September, it’s our hope that the Charles Town Oaks can have some Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint implications going forward.”

The seven-furlong Oaks headlines a Sept. 20 card that also features three open stakes, each going seven furlongs and worth $100,000 – the Researcher for 3-year-olds, the Wild and Wonderful for 3-year-olds and up, and the Pink Ribbon for fillies and mares – along with three stakes for West Virginia-breds. The purse for the Researcher had been $400,000 since its inception in 2010.

The Wild and Wonderful got a $15,000 purse increase for 2014, while the Pink Ribbon’s purse was doubled from 2013.

The biggest day of the track’s 2014 calendar will be April 19, when the Grade 2, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, won this year by Game On Dude, headlines a card with six stakes. That card also features the $200,000 Sugar Maple Stakes for fillies and mares and the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial for 3-year-olds.

The stakes schedule doesn’t include the Oct. 18 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic races, whose purses for 2014 have not been finalized, the track said. This year, the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic program featured nine races worth more than $1.1 million.

Sixteen of the 25 stakes currently scheduled for 2014 are restricted to statebreds.

The track will race exclusively at night, with a Wednesday-through-Saturday format from May through October. Tuesdays will be added during the rest of the year. All cards will start at 7:15 p.m., except for the stakes-rich April 19 and Sept. 20 cards, which start at 5 p.m.